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View from the lookout

Whistler Mountain and Lookout
Castle Wilderness, Alberta
April 21, 2006

After summiting Table Mountain a year ago, almost to the day, I assumed the nearby Whistler Mountain would be in season now. But we were surprised by the amount of snow in the area. The only snow we encountered on Table Mountain was just below the summit, but when we drove to Castle Wilderness this April, the snow extended to the base of the mountains.

To get to the trailhead we received directions from a warden we ran into. Just before the Beaver Mines Lakes campground we turned right and drove a short way down a road, passing by a few campers. This brought us to junction number 7 (943715), a T-intersection.

On our left, the road immediately crosses a wide but shallow stream. With my low-clearance Hyundai, it seemed unlikely we would get far down the South Castle River access road, but the warden suggested we should try.

The road was replete with potholes and we drove no faster than 20 kph. At one point a mud puddle stretched across the road and I had to stop and check its depth before proceeding. After covering 5.5 km we made it to the trailhead (944669), unmarked save for a yellow sign that said, "Trail closed to motorized vehicles." We started out on the trail an hour and a half later than I expected, but thankfully we didn't have to hike up the road.

The trail rose steeply in trees, but in ten minutes we reached an open slope. Whenever the trail led back into the trees, though, we were forced to slog in deep snow. Following the snow-covered trail where it etched into a steep slope was tricky; it was often easier and more prudent to circumvent the trail because of deep snow. In a couple of spots it felt like we were cutting across avalanche slopes. Strange to say, but we used our ice axes to go up a lookout trail!

Finally the trees thinned and we were again hiking on a dry trail. When we reached a plateau, the lookout was to the left, but we headed right to ascend the summit of Whistler Mountain. All around us were snow-covered peaks while we hiked on the colorful rocks of the area.

The summit, which held a small cairn, was disappointing as a few trees interrupted the views. We pondered continuing along the ridge to another point that appeared lower than the one we were standing on, but there was no good reason to do so. The wind had been increasing all day and was now making it difficult to stand still let alone hike. Also the lower point appeared to be under a great deal of snow and its summit was also in trees. Confident that we had reached the summit of Whistler Mountain we started back down. We took a detour, however, to check out the views from the lookout.

When we returned home I was surprised to see the NTS map indicated the lower point we didn't reach was the summit of Whistler. However, later we learned the map is wrong and we did in fact bag Whistler Mountain (see Sonny's trip report).

MOVIE (posted on YouTube)

KML and GPX Tracks


Whistler Lookout from the road. The trailhead lies behind the right end of the ridge.


Whistler Mountain Lookout from Junction 7. This road, the South Castle River access, took us to the trailhead.


The views appear soon after starting out


After the first switchback, the trail heads towards Castle Peak


A short time later we hit the snow


Dinah displays her "rabbit ears"


Much of the trail to the lookout is under snow.


The trail finally becomes free of snow and leads to interesting landscape


On the plateau. An unnamed peak on Barnaby Ridge is in the background.


Getting to the colourful rock


Nearly at our high point. The lookout is behind us.


North Castle Mountain (mouse over for a close-up)


Table Mountain on the skyline


Jutland Mountain lies south


On the summit of Whistler Mountain


View from the lookout: Hillcrest Mountain and Turtle Mountain on the left. Beaver Mines Lake on the right.


Panorama from the lookout


An unusually thick krummholz below the lookout


West Castle dominates the view to the SE


82/G8 Beaver Mines (Whistler Mountain is incorrectly marked)

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